The Mañanita Experience

My mother, brother, cousin and I were up before four a.m. We prepared the putomaya, the tskolate, the borrowed guitar, and the copies of the lyrics. We boarded the car, my brother in the driver’s seat. None of us said a word on the way. We were all tired and sleepy, but nonetheless excited to execute our plan. When we got there, Mommy’s friends were already parked outside, carrying a tupperware of seafood pasta, a blueberry cheesecake, and orange balloons. We were all dressed in orange, too. Orange is Tita Elnar’s favorite color, and she was the star for that day.

A little past four, we quietly creeped up the front gate. The househelp was in on the secret, and she discreetly opened the front gate, frantically whispering that Tita Elnar was already awake. Without further ado, my cousin began strumming the guitar, and we all sang to the following lyrics:

How beautiful is the morning
As we come to waken you;
With God’s early morning blessing,
With pleasure we sing to you.

On the day that you were born
The flowers came into bloom
And at the baptismal font,
All the saints brought forth their song.

The dawn is now appearing;
The rays of the sun break through.
Arise early this bright morning
as we sing “hello” to you.

How I wish I were St. Peter (St. Theresa)
How I wish I were St. John (St. Joan)
As we bring this salutation
In the very early dawn.

From all the stars in the heavens
How I wish I could get you two – –
One to tell you good morning
And another to bid you adieu.

With a bouquet of carnations,
We have come to sing our song,
And make your day full of color
So that you may carry on.

The dawn is now appearing;
The rays of the sun break through.
Arise early this bright morning,
As we sing “hello” to you.

Tita Elnar came out, with a conglomerate of surprise, smiles, and tears (and even a bit of sleepiness) on her face. There were no words to say but “Thank you,” followed by a series of group pictures. We went inside and set up the breakfast prepared just for her. Just for fun, we sang and danced to One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful in honor of our birthday girl. After setting up the birthday candle, there was nothing left to do but sing the birthday song, blow the candle, and enjoy the breakfast in a spirit of good cheer. It was a happy birthday indeed.

Photo by Gerald Sazon

Photo by Gerald Sazon

What we just did is known as a Mañanita. My mom thought of the idea as a surprise for her good friend and company group manager, Tita Elnar. It was a tradition in their province in Siquijor. My grandfather would take Mommy along during these Mañanitas, so Mommy used to do it all the time. When I googled about the tradition, it turns out that the Mañanita pertains to the song itself, traditionally performed at dawn for the birthday celebrator. When translated, it means ‘little morning,’ which could be taken as ‘early morning,’ a nod to when the song is supposed to be sung. It’s apparently a tradition we borrowed from the Spaniards.

It was the first time I’ve ever heard of this tradition. Being brought up in the city, I’ve come to know early mornings as times of hustle and bustle, as a race against time to prepare for a busy day. For this, however, the early morning is a time for surprise, celebration, and love. Despite the ungodly hour that we had to get up, I felt the warmth of all the thought, preparation, and care that went into this Mañanita. It definitely speaks volumes of how valuable a person is. I know Tita Elnar was touched. She’s a very busy lady with a lot of responsibilities to shoulder. Being treated to a special surprise on her birthday added leagues to her happiness, exemplified by her priceless smile and unmistakeable laughter.

This all happened one week ago, and the memory is fondly accompanied by a lesson about happiness. It speaks to me about how we should treat the people in our lives, how we should affirm our love, and strengthen our relationships. I’m not saying every one should be treated to a Mañanita; I’m pretty sure not every one’s a morning person like Tita Elnar is. But I’m certain that everybody wants to feel special, as simple as through a text message, a well-thought gift, a kind favor, and even a caring smile. There are many ways to express it, but what matters is that it is expressed at all.

In the brevity of life we’re given, all we want is to feel that we are alive, that we are loved, and that our lives do not account for nothing. True enough, these are not achieved through the allure of wealth or the brilliance of prestige. As I’ve seen in Tita Elnar’s eyes, it’s in the little things, the moments that make us glad we’re alive. Birthdays allow us a time to look back at what we’ve done and to look forward to what else we can do, but the true joy of it all doesn’t come from either the past or the future; it comes from living in the now with a smile on your face, knowing that nobody can ever take that moment away from you. No matter how scarce or how short those moments may be, it’s something we can cherish for the rest of our lives.

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3 responses to “The Mañanita Experience

  1. Pingback: My 2014 | Thought Process·

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